Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Fast and Slow

Midterms are approaching for my classes at CU. Next week I'm giving a midterm exam in both my Philosophy and Society class and my Intro to Ethics class. In fact, my two TAs and I are going to work together to make up the questions for the Philosophy and Society exam this morning over brunch at Dot's Diner.

I know from many years of experience in giving exams that some students will race through the exam and finish it in half the allotted time. Others will need every single second, and I'll have to tear their paper from their heartbroken hands as the students from the class after ours are impatiently pouring into the classroom. I also know from many years of experience that there will be little, if any, correlation between time and grade. Some students work quickly and do very well - they just know their stuff. Some students work quickly and do badly - they just blew it off. Some of my slowpokes are struggling students; others are passionate perfectionists. Fast and slow simply have little if nothing to do with good and bad.

The same seems to be true of children's book writers. Some of my friends are fast writers, and some are slow writers. It's just a matter of how their inner clock is set.

I think I fall into the camp of the fast writers. Even though I only write a page or two a day (during the hour I devote to my writing), which makes me seem slow, this means that I can actually complete the full draft of a 50-page chapter book in not much more than a month, which makes me seem fast. Also, in my case, I do feel that it's a good sign when I'm writing quickly, when I am so much in control of the story, have such a good sense of what has to happen next, am so propelled by the powerful emotions of my characters, that the words fly onto the page.

I just finished Chapter Five of my new chapter book, and my hand was racing across the lines. And I just read over the chapter, and, well, frankly, I think it's terrific!

Right this minute, for me, fast is good.


  1. That is a very good way of putting it! Fast or slow- end result seems to be the most important thing! I also love the feeling of writing or doing art fast- when all the decisions had been made and can just go sailing along!

  2. I once heard a Nobel Prize winner from your university say about the race to create a Bose-Einstein condensate, "Any research worth doing, is worth doing quickly.". Although I am a reasonably competent scientist, I am not fast. So, I aim for problems that seem interesting and useful, but do not have a race behind them. I won't win a Nobel Prize, but I have less stress and (so far) a paycheck.

  3. I don't think I'd like PRESSURE to be fast either, Scott - competitive pressure from someone else breathing down my neck, or about to beat me to the finish line. I just like those magic times when it all starts to FLOW, as Julia said.